The Gift of Mercy
One of the defining characteristics of Jesus-followers is mercy, or at least it’s supposed to be. This makes sense because we have a merciful God and a Savior who demonstrated mercy on the cross.
Consider the parable of the Good Samaritan, where Jesus explains that what made the Good Samaritan different from the Levite or the priest is that the Good Samaritan showed the beaten man mercy.
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise." Luke 10:36-37
Jesus told those listening to “Go and do likewise.” That same instruction carries over to all who want to follow Jesus.
Mercy is the calling of all believers. But did you know that there’s actually a spiritual gift of mercy? This means the Holy Spirit has given some Christians an extra dose of mercy to serve the church.
Let’s take some time today to explain what it looks like have the gift of mercy and how it is used.
Understanding the Gift of Mercy
In the Book of Romans, the Apostle Paul writes:
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” – Romans 12:6-8
In these verses, Paul lists mercy as one of the gifts given by the Holy Spirit.
Crosslink adds, “Larry Gilbert defined the spiritual gift of mercy as, ‘The Spirit-given capacity and desire to serve God by identifying with and comforting those who are in distress. The person who understands and comforts his fellow Christian.’ The Greek word here that gives us the word ‘mercy’ is ellco, which means ‘to feel sympathy or concern with others.’”
Someone with the gift of mercy is often found caring for those who are hurting inside the church, as well as outside the church, such as in prisons or nursing homes.
Charles Stanley explained it another way, saying, “Those with a gift of mercy desire to alleviate hurt in others.”
What the Gift of Mercy Looks Like
Sometimes people think of mercy as a feeling, but it is actually an action. Jesus showed mercy to us, and those with the gift of mercy show it to others.
An anonymous writer said, “Mercy is what we express when we are led by God to be compassionate in our attitudes, words, and actions. It is more than feeling sympathy toward someone; it is love enacted. Mercy desires to answer the immediate needs of others and alleviate suffering, loneliness, and grief. Mercy addresses physical, emotional, financial, or spiritual crises with generous, self-sacrificial service. Mercy is a champion of the lowly, poor, exploited, and forgotten and often acts on their behalf.”
In other words, not only do those with the gift of mercy have the empathy to feel for others, but they also go out of their way to treat the hurting person(s) with respect and kindness and strive to help them find healing for their situation.
How the Gift of Mercy Serves the Church
Every spiritual gift is given with the intention of the believer using it to serve the church. The gift of mercy is no different.
Those with this gift are drawn to broken people - often the people other believers judge and look down on. They are also drawn to those messy individuals who make others uncomfortable with their messes. Sometimes, mercy-showers are moved toward others who are simply in a season of grief.
The church needs people with the gift of mercy for this reason! Their gift allows them to see those hurting within the church and outside of it.
Those gifted with mercy actively “rejoice with those who rejoice [and] weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). They are the first to show up when someone is hurting, and they are the ones looking for ways to provide support to those in need.
Using their gift of mercy, they could also help the church meet needs in the community. Consider serving the homeless or local shut-ins.
Those with this gift often act as recovery group sponsors, participate in prayer groups, and coordinate meal trains. Through their acts of mercy, they demonstrate the love of Jesus.
How to Know If You Have the Gift of Mercy
Unfortunately, there are some misconceptions about people who have the gift of mercy. They are often considered weak or thin-skinned. This isn’t true. God has made those with this gift sensitive to the feelings of others to enable them to minister to those who are hurting.
What you may have considered a personality trait may be a spiritual gift. Your compassionate nature, good listening skills, and empathy may be the very things God intends for you to use to minister to others.
If you identify strongly with the following statements, you may have the gift of mercy.
- I feel compassion for hurting and lonely people and like to spend considerable time with them to cheer them up.
- I want to do whatever I can for the needy people around me, even if I have to give up something.
- I am quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19-20).
- I am deeply bothered (perhaps more than others) by stories from those who have been abused.